Authorities in New Mexico are describing an outbreak of vesicular stomatitis in livestock in the state as significant.
The viral disease, with symptoms similar to those of foot and mouth disease, primarily affects cattle, horses, and pigs, and occasionally sheep, goats, llamas, and alpacas.
Humans can also become infected with the disease when handling affected animals, but this is rare.
The New Mexico Livestock Board said the disease, which it said appeared to be quite virulant, was initially found in the outskirts of Tularosa, in Otero County, in April 2012.
No further cases were confirmed in that county, but the disease subsequently was found in Valencia County south of Albuquerque, where nine premises are currently under quarantine for suspected or confirmed cases.
In the last fortnight there have been suspected cases reported and quarantined in southwestern San Miguel and northern Socorro Counties.
Because the disease has a tendency to appear along the path of waterways such as rivers and streams, the board considers counties along the Rio Grande to be at greater risk from the disease, based on the historical patterns of disease movement in prior year outbreaks.
Vesicular stomatitis causes blister-like lesions in the mouth and on the tongue of livestock. These initial lesions progress rapidly to ulcerative lesions and sloughing of the mucous membrane surface.
The lesions are painful and the affected animals usually show signs of drooling and decreased appetite. The virus can also cause inflammation and ulcerative lesions on the coronary bands of the hooves and lead to lameness.
“The virus circulating in New Mexico this year appears to be quite virulent and lesions in most of the affected animals have been extensive and severe,” the board said.
The disease is spread by many types of biting insects. The virus is shed heavily by infected animals, so the disease can be spread by water and feed buckets, bits and other tack and other objects on which an infected animal comes in contact with.
Once cases appear, vesicular stomatitis generally remains active until hard freezes occur in the late fall or winter.
The board said there were important precautions livestock owners could take to help prevent exposure of animals and help contain the spread of the virus:
- Use insect repellant products, fly sheets and other measures to keep biting insects off animals.
- Take steps to control or eliminate sites where biting insects such as flies or mosquitoes might multiply.
- Check animals daily for signs and lesions suggesting the presence of the disease, and report any suspicious lesions to your veterinarian or to the State Veterinarian’s Office immediately.
- Avoid travel to areas of the state where active cases are documented or to areas considered higher risk for the emergence of cases.
The board said the course of the current outbreak will be unpredictable, and the restrictions and recommendations issued by authorities will change as needed.
“The goal is to minimize the potential spread of the disease within our state’s borders, particularly through commingling at organized events, or spreading to other states,” the board said in a statement.
On Friday, Colorado issued new requirements for horses, mules, cattle, bison, sheep, goats, swine and camelids entering Colorado.
Colorado now requires that health certificates should include the following statement from the issuing veterinarian: “I have examined the animal(s) represented on this Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI) and have found no signs of vesicular stomatitis and they have not originated from a premises under quarantine for vesicular stomatitis.”
There is no specific treatment or cure for vesicular stomatitis. Mild antiseptic mouthwashes may bring comfort and more rapid recovery to an affected animal. Good sanitation and quarantine practices on affected farms usually contain the infection until it subsides and ends.